It seems the timing was just right for Catherine Russell’s third KNKX studio session. Her new album, Alone Together, had risen to the top of the jazz charts. Also, the just-ended fund drive had all of us in the mood to celebrate.
The new release is another charming collection of older songs, a few jazz standards and a few songs most folks have never heard before. Including “You Can’t Pull the Wool Over My Eyes,” “I Wonder” and “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby,” I thought the connecting line perhaps was a search for truth and human connection. Catherine told me she’s happy to let the listener make whatever connection they like, she’s just singing great music.
We did make a discovery she hadn’t made yet, two songs – “You Turned the Tables On Me” and “When Did You Leave Heaven” – had their origins in the 1936 film Sing, Baby, Sing. Even as a fan of classic movies, Catherine told me she looked forward to tracking that film down to hear both songs in their original context.
Russell is a one-of-a-kind musician, a singer who loves teamwork. Along with some acting, her earlier experience in show business included plenty of work as a backup singer with groups like Steely Dan and David Bowie’s band.
She still tours with Steely Dan on occasion, saying the complex harmonies and collaboration with world-class singers keeps her coming back to the backup role. It’s all about serving the song, and Catherine delighted us with three gems in the KNKX studios. Our audience was most excited by her rendition of the salty 1924 song introduced by Rosa Henderson, “He May Be Your Dog But He’s Wearing My Collar.”
Russell herself was excited to talk about an upcoming role in a new movie about one of the seminal figures in jazz history, cornet player Buddy Bolden. Russell has a small role, but is featured singing in Bolden, which is scheduled for release on May 3.
It’s always thrilling to hear Catherine Russell in person, and you can enjoy this live session at your leisure. Until her next visit, and the upcoming film appearance, it will have to do. We’re all wearing her collar now!